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Botanical Name: Salyx nigra
Species: S. nigra
Synonym: Pussy Willow.
Common Name : Black willow
Habitat : Salyx nigra is native to eastern North America (New York and Pennsylvania), from New Brunswick and southern Ontario west to Minnesota, and south to northern Florida and Texas. It is typically found along streams and in swamps.
Salyx nigra is a medium-sized deciduous tree, the largest North American species of willow, growing to 10–30 m (33–98 ft) tall, exceptionally up to 45 m (148 ft), with a trunk 50–80 centimetres (20–31 in) diameter. (Largest example: According to the National Register of Big Trees, the largest black willow tree in the US is in Hennepin, Minnesota. Its height is 63 feet (19 m), circumference is 32 feet (9.8 m) and spread is 73 feet (22 m).The Marlboro Tree, located in Marlboro Township, New Jersey is certified by the State of New Jersey as the largest known example of this tree in the state. It is about 152 years old and measures 76 feet (23 m) in height and 19.7 feet (6.0 m) in circumference. Five grown people must hold hands to fully encircle the tree)
The bark is dark brown to blackish, becoming fissured in older trees, and frequently forking near the base. The shoots are slender and variable in color from green to brown, yellow or purplish; they are (like the related European Salix fragilis) brittle at the base, snapping evenly at the branch junction if bent sharply. The foliage buds are 2–4 millimetres (0.079–0.157 in) long, with a single, pointed reddish-brown bud scale. The leaves are alternate, long, thin, 5–15 centimetres (2.0–5.9 in) long and 0.5–2 centimetres (0.20–0.79 in) broad, usually somewhat falcate, dark, shiny green on both sides or with a lighter green underside, with a finely serrated margin, a short petiole and a pair of small stipules. It is dioecious, with small, greenish yellow to yellow flowers borne on catkins 2.5–7.5 centimetres (0.98–2.95 in) long in early spring at the same time as the new leaves appear. The fruit is a 5 millimetres (0.20 in) capsule which splits open when mature to release the numerous minute, down-covered seeds. The leaves turn a lemon yellow in the fall.
Salix gooddingii (Goodding’s willow) is sometimes included in S. nigra as a variety, as S. nigra var. vallicola Dudley; when included, this extends the species’ range to western North America. However, the two are usually treated as distinct species.
Another name occasionally used for black willow is “swamp willow”, not to be confused with Salix myrtilloides (swamp willow).
Succeeds in most soils, including wet, ill-drained or intermittently flooded soils, but prefers a damp, heavy soil in a sunny position. Rarely thrives on chalk. A fast-growing but relatively short-lived species, it can reach 15 metres tall within 10 years from seed in the wild. Twigs tend to break off easily in storms, these will then often root and grow into new trees. A good bee plant, providing an early source of nectar. Trees are impatient of root disturbance and should be moved regularly before being planted in their permanent positions, which is best done whilst the plants are young. The root system is rather aggressive and can cause problems with drains. Plants should not be grown within 10 metres of buildings. Closely related to Salix caroliniana, hybridising with that species where their ranges overlap. This species is also likely to hybridize freely with other members of this genus. Although the flowers are produced in catkins early in the year, they are pollinated by bees and other insects rather than by the wind. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus. Seedlings are very fast-growing, they can reach 1.2 metres tall in their first year. Plants are used commercially for papermaking. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. Special Features:Attractive foliage, North American native, Grows submerged, Naturalizing, Wetlands plant, Attracts butterflies, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.
Seed – must be surface sown as soon as it is ripe in late spring. It has a very short viability, perhaps as little as a few days. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year’s growth, November to February in a sheltered outdoor bed or planted straight into their permanent position and given a good weed-suppressing mulch. Very easy. Plant into their permanent positions in the autumn. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, June to August in a frame. Very easy.
Edible Parts: Inner bark; Leaves.
Inner bark – raw or cooked. It can be dried, ground into a powder and then added to cereal flour for use in making bread etc. A very bitter flavour, it is a famine food that is only used when all else fails. Young shoots – raw or cooked. They are not very palatable
Constituents: The bark contains tannin and about 1 per cent of Salinigrin, a white crystalline glucoside soluble in water and alcohol.
Medicinal Uses: An aphrodisiac sedative, tonic. The bark has been prescribed in gonorrhoea and to relieve ovarian pain; a liquid extract is prepared and used in mixture with other sedatives. Largely used in the treatment of nocturnal emissions.
Black willow roots are very bitter, and have been used as a substitute for quinine in the past. Ethnobotanical uses of black willow by various Native American tribes include basketry, and treatment of fever, headache, and coughs. The bark of the tree contains salicylic acid, a chemical compound similar to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid).
Basketry; Charcoal; Hair; Paper; Soil stabilization; Tannin; Wood.
The young stems are very flexible and are used in basket and furniture making. The twigs can be split in half lengthways, sun-dried and used as the foundation of coiled basketry. The plant is usually coppiced annually when grown for basket making, though it is possible to coppice it every two years if thick poles are required as uprights. A fibre obtained from the stems is used in making paper. The stems are harvested in spring or summer, the leaves are removed and the stems steamed until the fibres can be stripped. The fibres are cooked for 2 hours with lye and then beaten with mallets or put through a blender. The paper is red/brown in colour. The trees are often used in erosion control, their roots forming dense networks that stabilize stream banks. The bark is a good source of tannin. A decoction or infusion of the bark can be used as a hair wash to make the hair grow. Wood – not durable, light, soft and weak but does not splinter, warp or check. The wood is tough and fairly strong according to another report. It weighs 27lb per cubic foot. Used where strength is not important, for artificial limbs, barn floors etc. A good charcoal is also obtained from the wood
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